After covering Floyd County Circuit Court Tuesday morning, I spent most of the late afternoon and into the evening, part midnight, writing a column for my national news website about the guilty plea hearing where former personal attorney to Donald Trump admitted, under oath, that Trump directed him to make sure illegal campaign finance payments were made to two women accusing the now-president of affairs.
If either of the claimed affairs had become public, especially the one with porn actress Stormy Daniels, Trump could have lost the close election where he lost the popular vote but won a narrow victory in the Electoral College.
“I participated in this conduct for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” Michael Cohen told a plea hearing in federal court in Manhattan, adding that he was doing so “in coordination” with Trump.
Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney for decades until FBI agents raided his office, home and hotel suite to seize records, recordings and other materials. A recording seized in the raid provided audio proof that Trump had lied about not knowing about the payments and other recordings have given investigator more detailed information about the president’s disregard for the law.
Forty-four years ago, in my column for The Telegraph in Alton, IL, I wrote about the resignation of scandal-scarred president Richard Nixon after he resigned in disgrace after a Congressional committee voted for his impeachment.
In 1998, the House of Representatives, led by Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, voted to impeach president Bill Clinton. Gingrich promised the impeachment would provide GOP gains but that failed and Gingrich resigned and later left Congress during a scandal over an affair with a committee staff member who is now his wife.
I covered those activities and wrote many stories and columns about the failed attempt to impeach Clinton over perjury for lying about an affair and his incredibly stupid affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, who gave him blow jobs in the Oval Office and let him insert cigars into places where they were not intended.
I’ve covered a lot of scandal and sorriness in Washington for more than half a century but the present state of political sordid play in the nation’s capital has reached a new low.
Fact-checking services report more than 4,000 lies by Trump since he became president, a clear record in modern times.
Yet he still has a cult-like “base” of about 30-35 percent of Americans who believe every lie is a fact, that he is, somehow, a “great president” while he claims credit for any favorable data that existed before he took the job or for things that exist only in his fantasies and fictions.
Cohen has his own problems with the truth and that record will be challenged by Trump’s faithful following but federal prosecutors told the judge they have recordings, emails and other written materials to back up his statements in his guilty pleas.
Cohen’s pleas came on the same day that a federal jury in Alexandria, VA, convicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on eight counts of bank fraud, money laundering and other crimes.
Trump’s staff turnover since his presidency began have hit record levels, with many of them removed from office for crimes or inappropriate behavior. They include former security advisor Michael Flynn, who lied to investigators, and other staff members exposed as wife beaters, misusers of taxpayer funds or involvement with racists, among other things.
Says Neal Katyal, a formal U.S Solicitor General and now a criminal defense attorney:
This is a very big deal. The president of the United States has been directly implicated in federal crimes, and implicated not by some enemy but by his own personal lawyer.
A big deal, perhaps, to most folks but not for the party that controls Congress. They have become co-conspirators to Trump by placing politics above patriotism and personal greed above service to their country.
Let’s hope the voters in November take the action that is needed to bring this nation back from the brink.